They say lightning never strikes twice. That might be true for most of the planet, but not if you’re in the middle of Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo.
Each square kilometre of the vast lake is struck 233 times per year, more than anywhere else on Earth. It covers over 13,000km².
Scientists made the discovery while analysing data from a satellite that orbited the planet thousands of times between 1997 and 2015.
Thunderstorms occur more frequently over land, in summer and between noon and 6pm, as warm air masses clash with cold ones.
But despite suffering a record number of zaps, Lake Maracaibo doesn’t fit the typical pattern of lightning strikes.
Scientists found that the Venezuelan record holder was more commonly struck between midnight and 5am, and in late spring and autumn.
Like many other lightning hot spots however, Lake Maracaibo is surrounded by steep peaks. Cold air from the mountains collides with warm air from the tropical waters below to generate thunderstorms frighteningly often.
“Lake Maracaibo is one of the largest lightning generators on the globe,” Robert Holzworth, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Washington who wasn’t involved in the new study, told Science Mag.
Lake Maracaibo is followed by Kabare in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is struck 205 times a year, and Daggar in Pakistan, which is struck 143 times a year.
Early explorers in the Caribbean once used lightning over the lake as a reference point for navigation, such was the frequency of the storms.
Lightning can prove lethal to humans, but it’s also hazardous to wild animals. In August last year, a “freak” strike in Norway killed more than 300 reindeer.
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